Remember those days?

Once up on a time, “Linux” was something I found in the CD archives of the British Council Library. The year was 2002, and the Linux “version” was Red Hat 7.0.

Back home with the two-CD bundle, after setting up the BIOS to boot from the CD-ROM drive, I was lost looking at things like /dev/hda1, swap, RPM, and all the other assorted jargon. I mean, where the heck was the familiar C:, D: drives to install stuff on, or EXE files I needed?

Anyway, back to the library, I picked up a book that would help me install this “Linux” thingy. Following the steps, it wasn’t all that difficult to put that “thingy” on my computer. Yay!

And, then what? It would have been easier to learn this system had the soft modem I used to connect to the Internet (over dialup) worked on Linux. Well, it didn’t! (Did they get to release Linux drivers for D-Link Internet Modems, ever?)

Things that followed: compile Xine, XMMS, MPlayer, and sometime even kernel, from source. The compiled kernel, however, more often than not, resulted in a kernel panic :-)

Fast-forward to the end of 2004, I got a Debian DVD with one of the computer magazines I used to buy at the time. First time on a Debian (I’ve primarily been using Mandriva before that), and things didn’t seem all that difficult to install any more.

In fact, the adventure now was to switch to the unstable repository to update GNOME 2.6 to GNOME 2.8. Things pretty much worked as they should—and thanks to having migrated over to a cable Internet connection by now, everything had become much easier. In fact, by heading over to art.gnome.org helped me fetch some cool themes to decorate my GNOME desktop with. As they say, “It was all happening!”

I mean ,seriously, It was quite an adventure then — to install and setup all the software alternatives for typical Windows apps like Download Accelerator Plus (I don’t even remember the Linux-based replacement I used to use back then). The major pain points that were once part of the Fedora installs (Red Hat 10 never came out after Red Hat 9; it was instead called Fedora 1)—viz. setting up the system with an XMMS that plays mp3s and MPlayer or Xine UI that plays DVDs and other movie file formats—could be solved much more easily with a Debian base.

The only thing left to be solved was how to have sound come out of multiple applications like XMMS, as well as the Mozilla browser at the same time. Use ALSA and not the OSS drivers? Yes, that was it! Did it work? Sometimes it did, most of the times it didn’t.

Fast-forward to 2006, the Linux desktop pretty much had arrived. All the once-major pain points had long gone. Installing and configuring a system — Ark (yes, it’s not Arch), aLinux, Novell Linux Desktop, Ubuntu, Foresight, and what not — had become a piece of cake. In fact, with Novell introducing things like XGL (3D desktop), Linux started looking way better than the age-old Winduhs XP interface that people were using to get things done.

In a way, Linux had become way too perfect to lose its “charm”.

In fact, most of these “Linux” distributions had also become way too trendy to run properly on my Celeron 850Mhz-powered desktop — many-a-times they would only “crawl” (not run). Which often made me wonder why aren’t the distros compiling the binary packages that target the i686 arch, rather than i386?

Arch (and also Frugalware) were the only two distros back then that came fine-tuned to run on i686 processors — which made me consider running those might extract that extra amount of performance from my Jurassic-era PC. Frugalware seemed like an easier choice to install.

Unfortunately, I had become too accustomed to the convenience of using PCLinuxOS by then to spend time configuring Frugalware to lose the extra amount of fat, thanks to the unnecessary packages that would get installed during installation. And where the heck is Synaptic? My boy!

January 2009 was the first time I thought of installing Arch on my work laptop — again to extract that extra amount of performance from the system. That laptop was pretty much dying on me. Heck, before I could configure X on it, the system admin handed me a brand-new Core 2 Duo laptop to take care of my worries. And with that, the enthusiasm to install something adventurous also got lost.

Now, with the latest Ubuntu 10.10, and to some extent even Fedora 14, shooting up the load average because of some odd reason to make both my laptop and desktop freeze up randomly for seconds, made me reconsider Arch again.

[I figure, this has something to do with the 2.6.35 version of kernel that both the distros are using, considering even after installing latest software updates of the rest of all the apps from openSUSE OBS run just fine on my openSUSE installs powered by kernel 2.6.34.]

@BaloneyGeek encouraged me to use a net install ISO. Things followed, and things worked. In fact, I was going to configure X, when he pointed out that it should work without any manual configuration—just run startx, he had said. And it indeed worked!

The only thing that didn’t work was sound. Unfortunately, since the arrival of the Linux desktop (back in 2005), I had grown somewhat more lazy to troubleshoot any issues myself. I tried for a while… waited for @BaloneyGeek to come to Delhi and take a look at my install. He tried his hands… figured that sound is working if I connected a headphone, but somehow not coming from the laptop’s speakers.

Alas, he was only here for a day to dedicate more time to figure out a solution. And, this lazy person that I am, I find myself typing this blog on openSUSE.

Figures? This was just a rant — you’re free to derive your own conclusion :-)

3 Comments

  1. Boudhayan Gupta says:

    The sound issue still beats me. I mean, my Connexant worked just dandy out of the box, and it isn’t really Linux friendly at all.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The sound issue still beats me. I mean, my Connexant worked just dandy out of the box, and it isn’t really Linux friendly at all.

  3. Palash Roy says:

    Sir,

    It was the year 1995, one of our teacher gave us a book on unix that was ‘Advanced Unix’ by S Prata. Unfortunately, we didnt have Unix (remember Unix was also costly those days especially for my elder brother and me). However, we took the book but didnt know what to do with that. We somehow managed to configure a computer. It was 80386 processor with 4 MB RAM but 640 MB HDD and CGA Monitor. The whole computer was open because we could save little money sans cabinet. Motherboard was kept in a Magzine called PC Quest (Yes! We saved money to buy PC Quest). We got first glimpse of Linux (the installation was smooth), it was slackware version with no X Window. The only thing which was visible on the screen was ‘Darkstar Login’. We somehow managed to login but didnt know what to do with this other than ‘reboot’ command we learned somewhere. Then this book by S Prata came as a relief. We learned the magic of Linux. Hats off the Linus Torvarlds.

    Our teacher went to USA and stayed there to never come back. The book still remains with us reminds us the days of our struggle and subsquent love with Linux.

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